Two prominent Baltimore Democrats who endorsed Rep. Chris Van Hollen on Monday said their hometown congressman, Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, told them he's not getting into the race to succeed retiring Sen. Barbara A. Mikulski.
"I personally spoke to the congressman and he told me he was not running," said Baltimore City Council President Bernard C. Young at a news conference at which he announced his support for Van Hollen. State Sen. Nathaniel J. McFadden -- who along with state House Majority Whip Talmadge Branch also announced they were endorsing Van Hollen -- said on Monday that he had spoken with Cummings before making the announcement, "but he's not in this race."
A Cummings spokesman said Monday he has not made a decision.
A Cummings campaign would rock the Senate field that has been settled for much of the year. Cummings is popular at home and statewide, as evidenced by an October poll that showed him with a 13-point lead over both Van Hollen and the other Democrat in the race, Rep. Donna Edwards.
Cummings has been cagey about his intentions. In September, he said he planned a tour of his district during which he planned to make his intentions known. But Cummings bucked that deadline, saying he would instead wait to reveal his plans after Democratic presidential candidate Hillary Clinton testified before the House Benghazi Committee. When that time came and went, a spokesman said at the time , "please stay tuned."
Candidate filing ends on Feb. 3, fewer than three months before the April 26 primary.
Along with his standing in the polls, Cummings has cast a shadow over the race for another reason: Geography. He represents a part of the state that is home to about half the Democratic primary voters, the other part being the one where Van Hollen and Edwards are from in the counties near Washington, D.C.
Van Hollen said he was happy to have the endorsements on Monday, and added a nod to the region with primary votes ripe for picking: "A thriving Baltimore is central to a successful Maryland."
Van Hollen's announcement of Maryland Democratic establishment leaders came a week after EMILY's List announced it had started a $1 million, six-week ad buy on Edwards' behalf. The first pro-Edwards commercial is targeting black women in the Baltimore media market.
Roll Call Race Ratings Map: Ratings for Every House and Senate Race in 2016 Get breaking news alerts and more from Roll Call in your inbox or on your iPhone.